What Science Can't Do For Us During The Pandemic

What science can’t do for us during the pandemic.  Christianity is often characterized as being in conflict with science.  For some Christians this is true.  In my mind, there is no conflict, however.  We are all looking at the same data.  It’s how we interpret the data that puts us in conflict with others.

I’ve often said that there are many things science can’t do.  And as we continue on with this epidemic, I’ve noticed a trend of ascribing something to science that it’s not capable of providing. And to be fair, it’s not something people should be looking to science for. The thing that people are looking to science to provide is safety.   

Now, when people read that, they may be misinterpreting what I’m actually saying.  Science can provide us with risk factors.  Science can tell us about transmission probability.  It can generate models of what could possibly happen in the future of the virus.  But it can’t make us feel safe.  And we shouldn’t expect it to.  

Feelings Are Not Scientific 

Feeling safe is a completely subjective thing.  It may or may not be rational.  And the conditions that make one person feel safe may be inadequate to convince another that an activity is safe.  But it’s simply not fair to expect science to make people feel safe.

What Science Can't Do For Us During The Pandemic

I’ve seen many posts on social media stating that a person won’t do a specific activity until they feel “100% safe”.  This seems like an impossible bar to meet to me.  We were never 100% safe, even before the pandemic.  We are always 1 handshake away from getting sick.  

Life contains risks.  Each individual has to evaluate the risk they are willing to accept.  Some people enjoy risk more than others.  Adventurous souls will intentionally put themselves in life or death situations because the possibility of dying is exhilarating to them.  I’m not in this latter category, but I do admire those that are able to overcome fear and do amazing things as a result!

People Will Disagree

And this creates a problem.  If every individual has a different and unique idea of what is safe and what isn’t, then the problem is not science.  Notice that right now, the science is telling us things about the virus.  Some people feel it is safe to resume activities without restrictions.  Others think we should resume, but with precautions.  And yet another group thinks we should all be in lockdown.  

Notice the different reactions of Captain Kirk and Dr. McCoy to risk.

All these people are looking at the same data, but are coming to different conclusions.  Everyone is “Following the science”.  And people will in most cases be able to trot out a scientific study, a scientist or other evidence that supports their view. 

So How Do We Feel Safe?

As I’ve said, what the deciding factor is for feeling safe is going to vary.  But as Christians, we should not be fearful.  Yes, we should take reasonable precautions to protect ourselves and others.  But there is a difference between acting reasonably and acting fearfully.  

When we act from fear, we tend to make poor decisions.  There are several verses in the Bible that talk about fear and being fearful. One of my favorites is from 1 Timothy: 

Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.[1]

Notice that Paul contrasts having a spirit of fear with that of having a sound mind.  In certain situations, fear can be a good thing.  But constantly living in fear is unhealthy, and is not conducive to making rational decisions. 

So yes, we should be listening to science.  But we should not expect science to elicit “safe” feelings.  Science can’t do that for us.  We need to rely on sound reasoning.  And as we are taught, sound reasoning is not often found in a spirit of fear.  

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[1] The New King James Version. (1982). (2 Ti 1:6–7). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

One thought on “What Science Can’t Do For Us During The Pandemic”

  1. Can’t repeat it too often: Christians, particularly medieval Catholics, invented empirical material science (what modern English speakers usually mean when they say “science”).

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